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This Is America With Dennis Wholey

Education & Poverty Roundtable News/Business. (2010) Part 2 of 2. Dennis Van Roekel, National Education Association; Randi Weingarten; James H. Shelton III. (CC)

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America 5, Randy 4, New York 3, The National Education Association 2, The Nation 2, Hyundai Motor America 2, Us 2, New York City 2, Jim 2, Duncan 1, State 1, City 1, Brown 1, Southeast D.c. 1, New Mexico 1, Albuquerque 1, Brooklyn 1, Dennis 1,
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  WETA    This Is America With Dennis Wholey    Education & Poverty Roundtable  News/Business.  (2010) Part  
   2 of 2. Dennis Van Roekel, National Education Association;...  

    September 5, 2010
    10:00 - 10:30am EDT  

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. why do you care? why do you care about these kids? what touched you laid-back when that caused you to get involved in this whole conversation -- what touched you way back when that caused you to get involved in this whole conversation? >> i come from a small town. my parents, the community, the school said you can be what ever you want to become your dream. they emphasized that education was the way to get there, and i believed them. my dream was to be a high school math teacher, and i got to do that for over 23 years. that is what keeps me going. i used to tell my students all the time, what you choose to do is not nearly as important as that you get to do what you want to do. so make sure that you have what is necessary to get you there, and i believe the bottom line, always, is education. >> what brings you to this
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table? why do you care? >> like dennis, i went to school in a small town. 60 students graduated from my high school town. everybody went on to college. what makes me care is that this is america. i was not born someplace else, i was born in this country where it was possible -- i have had a good life, i have watched my family and friends have a good life. i want to be sure that other people in this country have as good a life as i do. >> i grew up 30 miles outside new york city, in a great school system where we had all the advantages. when i taught in new york city schools after words, i saw the difference, the tale of two cities, the difference between what i had and what i taught -- having to hoard pieces of chalk in order to actually write on
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the blackboards. thinking about what is the difference -- i grew up in a middle-class neighborhood and there was an expectation that the community would pay for schools. even when there was austerity, it was about whether or not you had a sports team, not whether or not you had a core program. i saw the difference between the entitlement that we had and the non-entitlement of the kids that i taught in crown heights, brooklyn. that has made me angry about wanting to make sure all kids get a decent life and ultimately is about, for me is about being in the intersection of two social movements -- a labor movement to try to have collective action so that working parents can have their shot at success, and in education movement to make sure that kids have the opportunity for success. >> what touched you way back when to get involved?
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>> i think it was when i was a senior in high school. i started with a freshman class of about 500 kids, and then i was in a classroom of about 1200 kids taking the regents exams in new york state at the time. these are the 12 kids and move into college from the freshman classes. other kids in that high school were not going to college. then i went to college and i came back and taught at the same high school, and it had not changed. it just made me think that, you know, we know that there is a difference between schools in affluent communities and inner- city poor and black, hispanic communities. we do not have the political will to change its. when i worked for a congressman, i realized that capitol hill is very disconnected from that
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reality. that leads to a lack of political will to do what is lives.ary to change kids' >> i grew up in southeast d.c., and my parents were not together on much of anything, but they were together on education being important. i got to go to private schools here in d.c. but i would always go back home to my neighborhood and it became clear by the time i was in third grade that my educational experience was completely different from the friends in my neighborhood. as we got older, it became even more clear what we would have available to us. i wanted to be a teacher very early on because i was good at tutoring kids. first, you need to go make money. go to math, science, be an engineer, and go do that. i was doing this other stuff, tutoring, and every time i get
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angrier and angrier about what i saw because i realized i was not the smartest kid in my neighborhood, on my block, but yet my outcome was much different than those around because of the educational opportunity that i had that they should have had. >> everyone talked about their growing up experiences. i am part of the catholic schools, and i had very positive experiences with the catholic schools, but not everybody can say that, i guess. >> i did. >> yeah, i had a good time and i learned a lot. one of the most fundamental principles in catholic social teaching and catholic education is caring for the poor and caring for the disadvantaged. the opportunities for service that i had growing up really instill in me not just caring for the poor and disadvantaged, but that equates with justice.
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and that justice, like in scripture, it says justice in a society, a just society is determined by how it treats its poor members. i think that growing up as i did in a small town, having a very pleasant childhood and supportive childhood, i had the gift of being able to uncover my own gift or what ever was driving me, like you say, dennis, in terms of what was your thing to do in the world. it became very important to me to work so that every child has that gift and potential and opportunity that they deserve, each and every child. >> we will take a little break and come back on the other side. a terrific panel to talk about education, poverty, and the ticket out. "this is america."
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"this is america" is brought to you by -- hyundai motor america, the national education association, the nation's largest advocate for children and public education. the league of arab states, representing 350 million people in 22 member countries. the rotondaro family trust, the ctc foundation, and the american life tv network. react from the gut. what do you think is the single
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biggest challenge in public education today? >> going back to my experience, i think it is what people expect from kids. some people go into a classroom and they have an expectation that kids will not do so well. the high school i taught in, a really difficult school. every kid, the first day of school, you can see the hope in their eyes. they have it every year. that is what we should focus on, and that is what we do not focus on. >> jim, what is the single biggest challenge? >> first is believed, not only among the students and teachers, but the policy makers. second is leadership and being willing to take on what needs to be done to make progress. >> quick comment, randy. >> i think expectation engagement is critically important, but what we have missed the boat on for the last 30 years in the attempt to
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reform schools is that it is not hethers but the hows. if we keep shouting do it at teachers, we will have the same results. we have to spend the time, energy, and effort looking at what works and how to recreate and duplicated throughout the country. >> and what does not work has to be got rid of, dennis? >> absolutely. if you want different results, you have to do it differently. the collaboration you bring to school board management and the people that work together, you can make a change. you can change what happens in the school. i believe that is possible, but it takes those groups sitting down, working together to say let's change what is happening. >> is that also true, dennis, and randy, of the unions working
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with the department of education to see if we can fine-tune this note child left behind thing? >> one of the great things about this administration is the access that randy and i have had in order to get into that conversation about what is it that we can do differently to change what is happening to kids. >> i have to ask, the single biggest problem -- or challenge, is the better way to say it. >> i have to say standardized testing and all the implications that flow from that. all the things that have come from that because of our emphasis on outcomes, you have a school that is accountable to an outside source, being measured at the -- it does not measure the success of individual students pick instead of a school that is accountable to its children and their success, which is measured by much more than a standardized test. >> then you are back to the point from earlier in the conversation about labeling pit
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it is kind of like you are testing and then you are punishing. i guess if you look at the schools or the kids and you punish them all the time, you would not get much out of them. >> let me add that i know there is value in testing and that it is necessary. i just think it has to be valid. >> did we all come up in schools where there was not tested eyes -- there was not standardized testing? i think we probably did, and we are all sitting at this table and -- >> we have to end up -- >> that sounds very good. we have to get when the in here. the single greatest challenge to public education? >> i agree that i think expectations and accountability. we do not believe that poor kids can learn. not just teachers, but when people who are walking down the street and they see a group of
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kids, the first thing they think of, "what is going to happen?" we live in a society where we have such low expectations of children, and then we proceed to play it out. we do not support the schools, we do not support the adults, the kinds of wraparound services that we know kids need. we have been talking about this for years. >> but how do you change that low expectation? it has to happen in the home, right? it has to happen in the home, in the school, it has to happen in the press, in the media. it is all part of it. >> that is why when you see good practice in school, where we see a good teacher development and evaluation system so that we see a good path to teaching, let's see how we can replicate that in other places. if we can create in a neighborhood, make the school the beacon of that neighborhood,
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as people have talked about before hand, if we can get the funds to do that, then we shine the light on this is what works and demand it around the country. >> let me follow up on that. why is it that some schools in some of the most impoverished neighborhoods work? how is that -- what makes that happen? what makes that happen? >> why is it that you pull out that example to say, well, you know, in this case under the worst conditions it can happen here, why can't it happen everywhere? >> now, my question is what makes -- because the same thing is what makes -- no, my question is what makes -- because the same thing seems to make catholic schools work. what makes a school work under the most difficult circumstances? >> we have all said that this morning -- reader, relationship, and relevance to do good they are in an
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environment where they are supported, the teachers are supported, they have the kind of support throughout the school, and a connection has been made between their family, whether it is their mother, their guardian, their father, whomever, but there is a connection. >> go ahead, jim. >> we know that these isolated examples exist. the problem we have is we have not figured out how to replicate those circumstances in lots of places. there are hundreds of schools across the country that are defying the odds. question is, how do you create the conditions and the opportunity for that success everywhere? >> how do you do that kind dennis? >> -- how do you do that, dennis? >> it is public will. we can take people to any school system in the country and you can see a great school. maybe not a great system -- >> not just private, but public.
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>> well, most of these schools are public, right? >> in the last eight years, how have we define success for students? math and reading. there are a lot of other things. but if you can say to a student the only way you can be labeled a success if you do these to do things -- if you do these two things -- one of the worst things about the child left behind were the unintended consequences. i do not believe people set out to narrow the court to 11 -- never the curriculum, but the idea of allowing schools to succeed in other ways, that all of these things are important. not all of them will be math majors. >> you have history, the arts, music. >> you know, for the schools i have attended and taught in,
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focusing on reading and math is the best part of the curriculum and the results tell you that. if you are a black child in the eighth grade or hispanic job in the eighth grade, you read or do math as well as a child in the fourth grade. someone is reading, getting math, and someone is not. we are saying that we want to give kids a whole curriculum, that is great and we need to do that. but if you are also saying it is hard for us to help them to do reading and basic math, then how are you going to do the rest of it? i am not suggesting that we should -- i am saying that it is not true that no child left behind is now the curriculum, and it is not true -- >> how can you say that? >> the fact is, black and hispanic kids have not learned how to read and do basic math. those two thingsdo is -- >> what happened is people
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reacted to the accountability of reading and mathematics with a respective response, which was to narrow the curriculum. no one has shown me that doing that -- >> who is doing that? >> people made the decisions all across the country, in schools, in classrooms. >> that was the standard set by the government? >> and people have the wrong assumption that the way you do better is just to do more of the same. if you go to the best schools, often times you see it is just the opposite. the best schools doing the best work with low-income students with black and brown students have rich music and art programs, rich everything else, and they are exposing the students to those opportunities. that is something that this administration in particular has made sure he emphasizes, look, we need a well-rounded curriculum to make sure we educate the whole child. in that context, we cannot let our expectations that students are going to be able to read, write, and compute. >> thathis administration is now
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50 feet above what is going on in schools, and that is what i want to get back to print what ultimately no child left behind did is narrow at least the older curriculum offerings. put that aside for a second. the theory of action -- if you look at the schools that work, the way in which they work is that they work together. the adults are fixated together in partnership on the needs of children and trying desperately to find every single set to create the kind they are working together to help kids, to create more course offerings to help kids. the dilemma we have is that in no child left behind, in the way in which people talk about accountability, it became the test score. what was going to get you a higher test score.
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so what the reactions were in a lot of places that did not know how to do this was just test prep, test prep, to three or four periods together of math and english, and that is the reaction. >> how do you change that? >> number one, you create accountability as collective responsibility, bottom up as well as top down. no. 2, you have not a competition model but a collaboration model in terms of how do we work together like just happened in new haven -- how do we work together to really change the systems so we have better teacher quality, great curriculum, and the kind of wraparound services we need for all kids to succeed. >> i want to come back to randy's last point, which is we have to focus on the hall. one of the great things we have had the opportunity to do is the investment innovation fund. we work across the country with
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schools, districts, in nonprofits across the country, highlighting the best work, knowing that it is effective, and giving them $5 million, $30 million, or up to $50 million to expand it through communities. highlight it, give them the resources to help them expand to other places, and we will be able to start to answer those questions for other school districts in the country. it is part of the investment innovation fun. race to the top is a similar model. if we do this right, states are collaborating around the assessment systems in the most recent competition they are collaborating around the standards in the curriculum and the data. they are collaborating around these things, sharing the best of what the states have to offer so they can pool their resources, especially important in this economic context, and bring the best of what the country has to offer.
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>> we should say to the folks at home if they might not know, the government set aside $4.5 billion to award to school systems that were being very innovative. so there are all these people filling out all these proposals, and only two states made the cut. in the first round. but are the standard so high that some states just got discouraged and back out? >> to my knowledge, none of the states -- a couple of the states and said they are thinking about how the standards relate to theirs. most of the noise has been around states that feel their standards are a little bit higher than the ones everyone is collaborating on. you still have the vast majority, 36 is not 48 states, then a part of the -- >> we are asking if the schools, the systems, the unions, if all of this business collaboration -- do you think the federal government and president obama
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and secretary duncan are on the right track here? where is the gift from them? >> number one, they are open, accessible to all different groups, and i think that is a necessary part of getty the conversation going. when one group decides -- of getting the conversation going. when one group decides for everyone else what will work, it is only through collaboration of a lot of groups coming together, and i think that is an important first step. >> my worry at the moment is simply what is going to be the resource scene at a local school level because of the drop in resources throughout the country. i am really worried about trying to put your foot on the accelerator of reform at the very same time, and that i worry about every time i go to a place
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-- i mean, i look at albuquerque, new mexico, and i saw a great school turning around, working together, focusing on the hows and doing the right things. they had a $50 million to 80 million drop in budget, and they said to me, how are we going to do this? it is more a matter of the plea to the president's, the congress, that i know there are deficit hawks out there, but you need to continue the investment for kids because kids do not get a second chance. >> why do you think catholic schools work? >> i wanted to mention t that. the catholic school model, not necessarily catholic schools -- catholic schools have a legitimate graduation rate of 90%. there was an interesting article in open of the new york times," -- in "the new york
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times," what made catholic schools work. it is basically what we have been talking about here today -- having a core curriculum, being accountable to children. also, it is character formation. a lot of times i think people are afraid to talk about character formation, but successful adults need to be grounded in who they are and what they need to do in life and how they can work in the world. when it comes down to it, we are talking about success, we are not talking about measuring individual school successes or sat scores. we're talking about kids graduate from high school, making it into college, or whenever they decide they want to do, changing their god-given potential. the other thing is, the last thing, they do utilize what we call their social capital -- involvement with parents, with the community. huge component. >> we are at the end of our time. i thank you all for participating, for keeping the
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conversation out there. i am very proud of the fact we have brought all of you together. i think our producer for bringing all of you together and that we would have an hour-long conversation, which we will distribute as two half-hour's on this business of education. what is working, what is not working, and our hopes for the future. thank you all very much. >> thank you. >> america" programs, visit our web -- for online video, visit our website. site, thisisamerica.net. "this is america" is brought to you by -- hyundai motor america, the national education association, the nation's
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largest advocate for children and public education. the league of arab states, representing 350 million people in 22 member countries. the rotondaro family trust, the ctc foundation, and the american life tv network.
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test. test. test.